Arsenal join transfer race they expect Chelsea to win

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 31: Hal Robson-Kanu of West Bromwich Albion and Virgil van Dijk of Southampton compete for the ball during the Premier League match between Southampton and West Bromwich Albion at St Mary's Stadium on December 31, 2016 in Southampton, England. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 31: Hal Robson-Kanu of West Bromwich Albion and Virgil van Dijk of Southampton compete for the ball during the Premier League match between Southampton and West Bromwich Albion at St Mary's Stadium on December 31, 2016 in Southampton, England. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images) /
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Arsenal will battle Chelsea for Virgil van Dijk

Arsene Wenger understands that Arsenal can’t defeat Chelsea for this year’s Premier League title, but it won’t stop him from challenging the Blues this summer. Unfortunately for the Gunners, they don’t believe they can top Antonio Conte’s side in the race for Virgil van Dijk either.

Reports from England claim that Wenger and his club are willing to match Chelsea dollar for dollar in the race for the Southampton defender. Despite that, officials at the club still admit that the Blues are in the driver’s seat. After all, Conte can offer van Dijk playing time and more importantly, Champions League football.

No matter which club is able to win the race for the former Celtic defender, it’s going to be an expensive transaction. Southampton are rumoured to be holding out for a bid of at least £50 million. Even for clubs like Arsenal and Chelsea that represents a major investment.

The form van Dijk showed before his injury proves it would be money well spent. He was arguably the best defender in England before being forced out of Claude Puel’s starting XI. There’s no reason to think he can’t regain that form in short order once he returns to full fitness.

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Presuming he does show he’s fully fit before the summer window opens, he figures to be the league’s most coveted defender. It’s not as if Southampton want to sell him, but they won’t be able to refuse the sort of bids they’ll be offered.

From van Dijk’s perspective, he’ll enter the transfer window in a very enviable position. No club that’s going to pay that sort of transfer fee isn’t going to be willing to promise him a place in their starting XI. Van Dijk won’t need to worry about fitting into his potential manager’s plans. Instead, the only thing he’ll need to concern himself about is the probability of winning silverware at his new club.

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For that reason, Chelsea are going to be tough to beat. Arsenal, and other clubs, can offer the same sort of financial package as the Blues. Conte’s squad will have the advantage in terms of on-field product though. That’s why the Blues will remain the favourites for van Dijk’s signature no matter how much money Arsenal choose to offer.